Mendocino College’s annual New Play Festival is a local celebration of local talent. Photo courtesy of Mendocino College.

NORTH COAST, Calif. – After a two-year hiatus, the Theater Arts Department at Mendocino College will present the 16th Annual Festival of New Plays from Thursday, April 7 through Saturday, April 9.

Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Center Theater on the Ukiah campus.

This festival marks the return of a beloved Ukiah theatrical tradition, which has been put on hold due to the COVID pandemic.

This year’s festival features eight new plays by local playwrights. Each piece lasts approximately 10 minutes and will be presented at each performance.

The plays were selected from more than 80 screenplays submitted by writers from all over Mendocino and other neighboring counties.

The directors are students of Mendocino College’s Theater Directing class taught by Professor Reid Edelman.

Festival performers include students from the college’s conservatory cohort group, as well as other local students and community members.

The short pieces cover a wide range of topics and performance styles. The festival also features original scenography, lighting and technical support by students under the direction of the college’s technical director, Steve Decker.

In particular, student Jordan Wegner, a student in the college’s new Technical Theater Certificate program, is designing lights for the full production. Music and sound effects edited by theater technician David Wolf will help maintain the energetic spirit of the production.

“This annual festival is one of the most exciting projects in the university theater program, and we are thrilled to be able to bring the event back to life,” said Edelman.

This year’s festival opens with Logan Silva’s stylized comedy “All Power to the McSoviet” in which Vladimir Lenin spars with an American capitalist in a fast food joint, raising the question of whether an ideology can really benefit to real people. The director is University Theater Major Alexander Marsh; the cast includes conservatory cohort students Ari Sunbeam and Dakota Laiwa McKay as well as Julayne Ringstrom and Madison McDonald.

Next, David Burton’s “Little Book of Fears” explores the layers of a troubled marital relationship. The cast includes Andrea McCullough and Pat Nunes under the direction of conservatory cohort student Gwendolen van Wyk.

Kyle Whitrock’s play “Match Made” evokes the feeling of a classic black and white Christmas movie as two angels return to earth to arrange romance for their surviving boyfriend and brother respectively. The cast includes Dakota Laiwa McKay, Brisa Yepez and Ari Sunbeam. Christian Avalos is the director.

Phaedra Kincaid Swearengin directs Michael Riedell’s play “Crazier Train Fundraiser” in which a young man hides out in a tax office after the theft of jewelry to fund his musical endeavors goes awry. The cast includes Matt McClelland, Maria Monti, Pat Nunes and Gwendolen van Wyk.

“Husband”, by Shannon Sawyer, confronts with force and personality the problem of mental illness and its impact on a relationship. The cast includes Joni Marie McLeod and Jasmine Norris. The director is Brittani McKemy.

In Natasha Yim’s comedy play “Salsa Dancing,” three generations of characters confront relationships and the enjoyment of life and love at different stages of maturity. Dakota Laiwa McKay directs actors Rosemary Eddy, Megan Regan and Les Clow.

“Making It” by Chris Douthit and directed by Kelly Alvarez, is a touching drama about two lovers’ final days together as one faces the terminal stage of a terminal illness. Their shared love and impending loss is reflected in the food they created together from a special cookbook. The cast includes Jordan Wegner, Todd Hale and Janet Denninger.

Finally, the evening ends with a magical celebration of all those who have died before us.

Jessica Lee’s “Amma’s Dance Party” takes place in a kitchen where food, music and dance unite a family and celebrate the spirits of those who have passed away. John Pegan leads a cast that includes Brittani McKemy, Rickie Emilie Farah and Gwendolen van Wyk.

Tickets are available at Ukiah at the Mendocino Book Co. and online at www.ArtsMendocino.org, and at the door upon availability. This production is recommended from 12 years old. Admission is $10. Spectators are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance. For more information, call Reid Edelman at 707-468-3172.​

Please note regarding Mendocino College’s Covid Safety Policy: Mendocino College has adopted a vaccination mandate for indoor events. All guests must present proof of full vaccination (two doses of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine) to enter the theater. Masks are recommended, but not required.

Each member of the public will be required to present proof of vaccination upon entry. This may include: a screenshot of a valid digital CA vaccination card or QR code, a physical CDC vaccination card, or a screenshot or photo of a CDC vaccination card on a phone. Photo ID or an accompanying checklist for children who do not have ID must accompany all health documents.